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Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students

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MASTERING THE CRAFT OF NARRATIVE WRITING

Narratives build on and encourage the development of the fundamentals of writing. They also require developing an additional skill set: the ability to tell a good yarn, and storytelling is as old as humanity.

We see and hear stories everywhere and daily, from having good gossip on the doorstep with a neighbor in the morning to the dramas that fill our screens in the evening.

Good narrative writing skills are hard-won by students even though it is an area of writing that most enjoy due to the creativity and freedom it offers.

Here we will explore some of the main elements of a good story: plot, setting, characters, conflict, climax, and resolution . And we will look too at how best we can help our students understand these elements, both in isolation and how they mesh together as a whole.

Visual Writing Prompts

WHAT IS A NARRATIVE?

What is a narrative?

A narrative is a story that shares a sequence of events , characters, and themes. It expresses experiences, ideas, and perspectives that should aspire to engage and inspire an audience.

A narrative can spark emotion, encourage reflection, and convey meaning when done well.

Narratives are a popular genre for students and teachers as they allow the writer to share their imagination, creativity, skill, and understanding of nearly all elements of writing.  We occasionally refer to a narrative as ‘creative writing’ or story writing.

The purpose of a narrative is simple, to tell the audience a story.  It can be written to motivate, educate, or entertain and can be fact or fiction.

A COMPLETE UNIT ON TEACHING NARRATIVE WRITING

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Teach your students to become skilled story writers with this HUGE   NARRATIVE & CREATIVE STORY WRITING UNIT . Offering a  COMPLETE SOLUTION  to teaching students how to craft  CREATIVE CHARACTERS, SUPERB SETTINGS, and PERFECT PLOTS .

Over 192 PAGES of materials, including:

TYPES OF NARRATIVE WRITING

There are many narrative writing genres and sub-genres such as these.

We have a complete guide to writing a personal narrative that differs from the traditional story-based narrative covered in this guide. It includes personal narrative writing prompts, resources, and examples and can be found here.

narrative writing | how to write quest narratives | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com

As we can see, narratives are an open-ended form of writing that allows you to showcase creativity in many directions. However, all narratives share a common set of features and structure known as “Story Elements”, which are briefly covered in this guide.

Don’t overlook the importance of understanding story elements and the value this adds to you as a writer who can dissect and create grand narratives. We also have an in-depth guide to understanding story elements here .

CHARACTERISTICS OF NARRATIVE WRITING

Narrative structure.

ORIENTATION (BEGINNING) Set the scene by introducing your characters, setting and time of the story. Establish your who, when and where in this part of your narrative

COMPLICATION AND EVENTS (MIDDLE) In this section activities and events involving your main characters are expanded upon. These events are written in a cohesive and fluent sequence.

RESOLUTION (ENDING) Your complication is resolved in this section. It does not have to be a happy outcome, however.

EXTRAS: Whilst orientation, complication and resolution are the agreed norms for a narrative, there are numerous examples of popular texts that did not explicitly follow this path exactly.

NARRATIVE FEATURES

LANGUAGE: Use descriptive and figurative language to paint images inside your audience’s minds as they read.

PERSPECTIVE Narratives can be written from any perspective but are most commonly written in first or third person.

DIALOGUE Narratives frequently switch from narrator to first-person dialogue. Always use speech marks when writing dialogue.

TENSE If you change tense, make it perfectly clear to your audience what is happening. Flashbacks might work well in your mind but make sure they translate to your audience.

THE PLOT MAP

narrative writing | structuring a narrative | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com

This graphic is known as a plot map, and nearly all narratives fit this structure in one way or another, whether romance novels, science fiction or otherwise.

It is a simple tool that helps you understand and organise a story’s events. Think of it as a roadmap that outlines the journey of your characters and the events that unfold. It outlines the different stops along the way, such as the introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution, that help you to see how the story builds and develops.

Using a plot map, you can see how each event fits into the larger picture and how the different parts of the story work together to create meaning. It’s a great way to visualize and analyze a story.

Be sure to refer to a plot map when planning a story, as it has all the essential elements of a great story.

THE 5 KEY STORY ELEMENTS OF A GREAT NARRATIVE (6-MINUTE TUTORIAL VIDEO)

This video we created provides an excellent overview of these elements and demonstrates them in action in stories we all know and love.

Story Elements for kids

HOW TO WRITE A NARRATIVE

How to write a Narrative

Now that we understand the story elements and how they come together to form stories, it’s time to start planning and writing your narrative.

In many cases, the template and guide below will provide enough details on how to craft a great story. However, if you still need assistance with the fundamentals of writing, such as sentence structure, paragraphs and using correct grammar, we have some excellent guides on those here.

USE YOUR WRITING TIME EFFECTIVELY: Maximize your narrative writing sessions by spending approximately 20 per cent of your time planning and preparing.  This ensures greater productivity during your writing time and keeps you focused and on task.

Use tools such as graphic organizers to logically sequence your narrative if you are not a confident story writer.  If you are working with reluctant writers, try using narrative writing prompts to get their creative juices flowing.

Spend most of your writing hour on the task at hand, don’t get too side-tracked editing during this time and leave some time for editing. When editing a  narrative, examine it for these three elements.

  • Spelling and grammar ( Is it readable?)
  • Story structure and continuity ( Does it make sense, and does it flow? )
  • Character and plot analysis. (Are your characters engaging? Does your problem/resolution work? )

1. SETTING THE SCENE: THE WHERE AND THE WHEN

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The story’s setting often answers two of the central questions in the story, namely, the where and the when. The answers to these two crucial questions will often be informed by the type of story the student is writing.

The story’s setting can be chosen to quickly orient the reader to the type of story they are reading. For example, a fictional narrative writing piece such as a horror story will often begin with a description of a haunted house on a hill or an abandoned asylum in the middle of the woods. If we start our story on a rocket ship hurtling through the cosmos on its space voyage to the Alpha Centauri star system, we can be reasonably sure that the story we are embarking on is a work of science fiction.

Such conventions are well-worn clichés true, but they can be helpful starting points for our novice novelists to make a start.

Having students choose an appropriate setting for the type of story they wish to write is an excellent exercise for our younger students. It leads naturally onto the next stage of story writing, which is creating suitable characters to populate this fictional world they have created. However, older or more advanced students may wish to play with the expectations of appropriate settings for their story. They may wish to do this for comic effect or in the interest of creating a more original story. For example, opening a story with a children’s birthday party does not usually set up the expectation of a horror story. Indeed, it may even lure the reader into a happy reverie as they remember their own happy birthday parties. This leaves them more vulnerable to the surprise element of the shocking action that lies ahead.

Once the students have chosen a setting for their story, they need to start writing. Little can be more terrifying to English students than the blank page and its bare whiteness stretching before them on the table like a merciless desert they must cross. Give them the kick-start they need by offering support through word banks or writing prompts. If the class is all writing a story based on the same theme, you may wish to compile a common word bank on the whiteboard as a prewriting activity. Write the central theme or genre in the middle of the board. Have students suggest words or phrases related to the theme and list them on the board.

You may wish to provide students with a copy of various writing prompts to get them started. While this may mean that many students’ stories will have the same beginning, they will most likely arrive at dramatically different endings via dramatically different routes.

narrative writing | story elements | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com

A bargain is at the centre of the relationship between the writer and the reader. That bargain is that the reader promises to suspend their disbelief as long as the writer creates a consistent and convincing fictional reality. Creating a believable world for the fictional characters to inhabit requires the student to draw on convincing details. The best way of doing this is through writing that appeals to the senses. Have your student reflect deeply on the world that they are creating. What does it look like? Sound like? What does the food taste like there? How does it feel like to walk those imaginary streets, and what aromas beguile the nose as the main character winds their way through that conjured market?

Also, Consider the when; or the time period. Is it a future world where things are cleaner and more antiseptic? Or is it an overcrowded 16th-century London with human waste stinking up the streets? If students can create a multi-sensory installation in the reader’s mind, then they have done this part of their job well.

Popular Settings from Children’s Literature and Storytelling

  • Fairytale Kingdom
  • Magical Forest
  • Village/town
  • Underwater world
  • Space/Alien planet

2. CASTING THE CHARACTERS: THE WHO

Now that your student has created a believable world, it is time to populate it with believable characters.

In short stories, these worlds mustn’t be overpopulated beyond what the student’s skill level can manage. Short stories usually only require one main character and a few secondary ones. Think of the short story more as a small-scale dramatic production in an intimate local theater than a Hollywood blockbuster on a grand scale. Too many characters will only confuse and become unwieldy with a canvas this size. Keep it simple!

Creating believable characters is often one of the most challenging aspects of narrative writing for students. Fortunately, we can do a few things to help students here. Sometimes it is helpful for students to model their characters on actual people they know. This can make things a little less daunting and taxing on the imagination. However, whether or not this is the case, writing brief background bios or descriptions of characters’ physical personality characteristics can be a beneficial prewriting activity. Students should give some in-depth consideration to the details of who their character is: How do they walk? What do they look like? Do they have any distinguishing features? A crooked nose? A limp? Bad breath? Small details such as these bring life and, therefore, believability to characters. Students can even cut pictures from magazines to put a face to their character and allow their imaginations to fill in the rest of the details.

Younger students will often dictate to the reader the nature of their characters. To improve their writing craft, students must know when to switch from story-telling mode to story-showing mode. This is particularly true when it comes to character. Encourage students to reveal their character’s personality through what they do rather than merely by lecturing the reader on the faults and virtues of the character’s personality. It might be a small relayed detail in the way they walk that reveals a core characteristic. For example, a character who walks with their head hanging low and shoulders hunched while avoiding eye contact has been revealed to be timid without the word once being mentioned. This is a much more artistic and well-crafted way of doing things and is less irritating for the reader. A character who sits down at the family dinner table immediately snatches up his fork and starts stuffing roast potatoes into his mouth before anyone else has even managed to sit down has revealed a tendency towards greed or gluttony.

Understanding Character Traits

Again, there is room here for some fun and profitable prewriting activities. Give students a list of character traits and have them describe a character doing something that reveals that trait without ever employing the word itself.

It is also essential to avoid adjective stuffing here. When looking at students’ early drafts, adjective stuffing is often apparent. To train the student out of this habit, choose an adjective and have the student rewrite the sentence to express this adjective through action rather than telling.

When writing a story, it is vital to consider the character’s traits and how they will impact the story’s events. For example, a character with a strong trait of determination may be more likely to overcome obstacles and persevere. In contrast, a character with a tendency towards laziness may struggle to achieve their goals. In short, character traits add realism, depth, and meaning to a story, making it more engaging and memorable for the reader.

Popular Character Traits in Children’s Stories

  • Determination
  • Imagination
  • Perseverance
  • Responsibility

We have an in-depth guide to creating great characters here , but most students should be fine to move on to planning their conflict and resolution.

3. NO PROBLEM? NO STORY! HOW CONFLICT DRIVES A NARRATIVE

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This is often the area apprentice writers have the most difficulty with. Students must understand that without a problem or conflict, there is no story. The problem is the driving force of the action. Usually, in a short story, the problem will center around what the primary character wants to happen or, indeed, wants not to happen. It is the hurdle that must be overcome. It is in the struggle to overcome this hurdle that events happen.

Often when a student understands the need for a problem in a story, their completed work will still not be successful. This is because, often in life, problems remain unsolved. Hurdles are not always successfully overcome. Students pick up on this.

We often discuss problems with friends that will never be satisfactorily resolved one way or the other, and we accept this as a part of life. This is not usually the case with writing a story. Whether a character successfully overcomes his or her problem or is decidedly crushed in the process of trying is not as important as the fact that it will finally be resolved one way or the other.

A good practical exercise for students to get to grips with this is to provide copies of stories and have them identify the central problem or conflict in each through discussion. Familiar fables or fairy tales such as Three Little Pigs, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Cinderella, etc., are great for this.

While it is true that stories often have more than one problem or that the hero or heroine is unsuccessful in their first attempt to solve a central problem, for beginning students and intermediate students, it is best to focus on a single problem, especially given the scope of story writing at this level. Over time students will develop their abilities to handle more complex plots and write accordingly.

Popular Conflicts found in Children’s Storytelling.

  • Good vs evil
  • Individual vs society
  • Nature vs nurture
  • Self vs others
  • Man vs self
  • Man vs nature
  • Man vs technology
  • Individual vs fate
  • Self vs destiny

Conflict is the heart and soul of any good story. It’s what makes a story compelling and drives the plot forward. Without conflict, there is no story. Every great story has a struggle or a problem that needs to be solved, and that’s where conflict comes in. Conflict is what makes a story exciting and keeps the reader engaged. It creates tension and suspense and makes the reader care about the outcome.

Like in real life, conflict in a story is an opportunity for a character’s growth and transformation. It’s a chance for them to learn and evolve, making a story great. So next time stories are written in the classroom, remember that conflict is an essential ingredient, and without it, your story will lack the energy, excitement, and meaning that makes it truly memorable.

4. THE NARRATIVE CLIMAX: HOW THINGS COME TO A HEAD!

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The climax of the story is the dramatic high point of the action. It is also when the struggles kicked off by the problem come to a head. The climax will ultimately decide whether the story will have a happy or tragic ending. In the climax, two opposing forces duke things out until the bitter (or sweet!) end. One force ultimately emerges triumphant. As the action builds throughout the story, suspense increases as the reader wonders which of these forces will win out. The climax is the release of this suspense.

Much of the success of the climax depends on how well the other elements of the story have been achieved. If the student has created a well-drawn and believable character that the reader can identify with and feel for, then the climax will be more powerful.

The nature of the problem is also essential as it determines what’s at stake in the climax. The problem must matter dearly to the main character if it matters at all to the reader.

Have students engage in discussions about their favorite movies and books. Have them think about the storyline and decide the most exciting parts. What was at stake at these moments? What happened in your body as you read or watched? Did you breathe faster? Or grip the cushion hard? Did your heart rate increase, or did you start to sweat? This is what a good climax does and what our students should strive to do in their stories.

The climax puts it all on the line and rolls the dice. Let the chips fall where the writer may…

Popular Climax themes in Children’s Stories

  • A battle between good and evil
  • The character’s bravery saves the day
  • Character faces their fears and overcomes them
  • The character solves a mystery or puzzle.
  • The character stands up for what is right.
  • Character reaches their goal or dream.
  • The character learns a valuable lesson.
  • The character makes a selfless sacrifice.
  • The character makes a difficult decision.
  • The character reunites with loved ones or finds true friendship.

5. RESOLUTION: TYING UP LOOSE ENDS

After the climactic action, a few questions will often remain unresolved for the reader, even if all the conflict has been resolved. The resolution is where those lingering questions will be answered. The resolution in a short story may only be a brief paragraph or two. But, in most cases, it will still be necessary to include an ending immediately after the climax can feel too abrupt and leave the reader feeling unfulfilled.

An easy way to explain resolution to students struggling to grasp the concept is to point to the traditional resolution of fairy tales, the “And they all lived happily ever after” ending. This weather forecast for the future allows the reader to take their leave. Have the student consider the emotions they want to leave the reader with when crafting their resolution.

While the action is usually complete by the end of the climax, it is in the resolution that if there is a twist to be found, it will appear – think of movies such as The Usual Suspects. Pulling this off convincingly usually requires considerable skill from a student writer. Still, it may well form a challenging extension exercise for those more gifted storytellers among your students.

Popular Resolutions in Children’s Stories

  • Our hero achieves their goal
  • The character learns a valuable lesson
  • A character finds happiness or inner peace.
  • The character reunites with loved ones.
  • Character restores balance to the world.
  • The character discovers their true identity.
  • Character changes for the better.
  • The character gains wisdom or understanding.
  • Character makes amends with others.
  • The character learns to appreciate what they have.

Once students have completed their story, they can edit for grammar, vocabulary choice, spelling, etc., but not before!

As mentioned, there is a craft to storytelling, as well as an art. When accurate grammar, perfect spelling, and immaculate sentence structures are pushed at the outset, they can cause storytelling paralysis. For this reason, it is essential that when we encourage the students to write a story, we give them license to make mechanical mistakes in their use of language that they can work on and fix later.

Good narrative writing is a very complex skill to develop and will take the student years to become competent. It challenges not only the student’s technical abilities with language but also her creative faculties. Writing frames, word banks, mind maps, and visual prompts can all give valuable support as students develop the wide-ranging and challenging skills required to produce a successful narrative writing piece. But, at the end of it all, as with any craft, practice and more practice is at the heart of the matter.

TIPS FOR WRITING A GREAT NARRATIVE

  • Start your story with a clear purpose: If you can determine the theme or message you want to convey in your narrative before starting it will make the writing process so much simpler.
  • Choose a compelling storyline and sell it through great characters, setting and plot: Consider a unique or interesting story that captures the reader’s attention, then build the world and characters around it.
  • Develop vivid characters that are not all the same: Make your characters relatable and memorable by giving them distinct personalities and traits you can draw upon in the plot.
  • Use descriptive language to hook your audience into your story: Use sensory language to paint vivid images and sequences in the reader’s mind.
  • Show, don’t tell your audience: Use actions, thoughts, and dialogue to reveal character motivations and emotions through storytelling.
  • Create a vivid setting that is clear to your audience before getting too far into the plot: Describe the time and place of your story to immerse the reader fully.
  • Build tension: Refer to the story map earlier in this article and use conflict, obstacles, and suspense to keep the audience engaged and invested in your narrative.
  • Use figurative language such as metaphors, similes, and other literary devices to add depth and meaning to your narrative.
  • Edit, revise, and refine: Take the time to refine and polish your writing for clarity and impact.
  • Stay true to your voice: Maintain your unique perspective and style in your writing to make it your own.

NARRATIVE WRITING EXAMPLES (Student Writing Samples)

Below are a collection of student writing samples of narratives.  Click on the image to enlarge and explore them in greater detail.  Please take a moment to read these creative stories in detail and the teacher and student guides which highlight some of the critical elements of narratives to consider before writing.

Please understand these student writing samples are not intended to be perfect examples for each age or grade level but a piece of writing for students and teachers to explore together to critically analyze to improve student writing skills and deepen their understanding of story writing.

We recommend reading the example either a year above or below, as well as the grade you are currently working with, to gain a broader appreciation of this text type.

narrative writing | Narrative writing example year 3 1 | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com

NARRATIVE WRITING PROMPTS (Journal Prompts)

When students have a great journal prompt, it can help them focus on the task at hand, so be sure to view our vast collection of visual writing prompts for various text types here or use some of these.

  • On a recent European trip, you find your travel group booked into the stunning and mysterious Castle Frankenfurter for a single night…  As night falls, the massive castle of over one hundred rooms seems to creak and groan as a series of unexplained events begin to make you wonder who or what else is spending the evening with you. Write a narrative that tells the story of your evening.
  • You are a famous adventurer who has discovered new lands; keep a travel log over a period of time in which you encounter new and exciting adventures and challenges to overcome.  Ensure your travel journal tells a story and has a definite introduction, conflict and resolution.
  • You create an incredible piece of technology that has the capacity to change the world.  As you sit back and marvel at your innovation and the endless possibilities ahead of you, it becomes apparent there are a few problems you didn’t really consider. You might not even be able to control them.  Write a narrative in which you ride the highs and lows of your world-changing creation with a clear introduction, conflict and resolution.
  • As the final door shuts on the Megamall, you realise you have done it…  You and your best friend have managed to sneak into the largest shopping centre in town and have the entire place to yourselves until 7 am tomorrow.  There is literally everything and anything a child would dream of entertaining themselves for the next 12 hours.  What amazing adventures await you?  What might go wrong?  And how will you get out of there scot-free?
  • A stranger walks into town…  Whilst appearing similar to almost all those around you, you get a sense that this person is from another time, space or dimension… Are they friends or foes?  What makes you sense something very strange is going on?   Suddenly they stand up and walk toward you with purpose extending their hand… It’s almost as if they were reading your mind.

NARRATIVE WRITING VIDEO TUTORIAL

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Teaching Resources

Use our resources and tools to improve your student’s writing skills through proven teaching strategies.

When teaching narrative writing, it is essential that you have a range of tools, strategies and resources at your disposal to ensure you get the most out of your writing time.  You can find some examples below, which are free and paid premium resources you can use instantly without any preparation.

FREE Narrative Graphic Organizer

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THE STORY TELLERS BUNDLE OF TEACHING RESOURCES

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A MASSIVE COLLECTION of resources for narratives and story writing in the classroom covering all elements of crafting amazing stories. MONTHS WORTH OF WRITING LESSONS AND RESOURCES, including:

NARRATIVE WRITING CHECKLIST BUNDLE

writing checklists

OTHER GREAT ARTICLES ABOUT NARRATIVE WRITING

narrative writing | Narrative2BWriting2BStrategies2Bfor2Bjuniors2B28129 | Narrative Writing for Kids: Essential Skills and Strategies | literacyideas.com

Narrative Writing for Kids: Essential Skills and Strategies

narrative writing | narrative writing lessons | 7 Great Narrative Lesson Plans Students and Teachers Love | literacyideas.com

7 Great Narrative Lesson Plans Students and Teachers Love

narrative writing | Top narrative writing skills for students | Top 7 Narrative Writing Exercises for Students | literacyideas.com

Top 7 Narrative Writing Exercises for Students

narrative writing | how to write a scary horror story | How to Write a Scary Story | literacyideas.com

How to Write a Scary Story

  • Our Mission

A Systematic Approach to Teaching Narrative Writing

Clear strategies for each stage of the writing process help students improve their writing and serve as effective readers for their peers.

Two middle school students work on writing together in classroom

“I’ll never forget the colors,” I often read in student reflections.

As a middle school language arts teacher, I’ve developed a systematic approach to writing that helps students improve their storytelling skills. It includes strategies for writing in a variety of genres, such as personal narrative, memoir, and creative nonfiction. And in the revision stage I teach a color-coded approach to analyzing details that helps students see clearly what kinds of details they’ve used—and which they haven’t. Apparently this approach really sticks with my students.

When these strategies are used together, they help students improve their writing skills while also fostering relationships among themselves as they act as sounding boards for each other’s work.

Prewriting Q&A as a Source of New Ideas

Prewriting is an essential part of the writing process. If ideas aren’t flowing, however, some students may become stalled, with a lack of ideas acting as a roadblock for them. To get the ball rolling, I pair students together for prewriting conversations.

To begin, I share one of my own stories to demonstrate the art of storytelling. Next, I give students the opportunity to discuss their own story ideas with a partner. Then, as I walk around listening to their conversations, I’ll pause every now and then and ask a few students whose ideas piqued my interest to share their story ideas aloud with the entire group.

Next, I’ll demonstrate asking a series of questions to the student who is sharing aloud, explaining to the class that this strategy can help them dive deeper as writers. Students will continue their discussions in pairs, eliciting as many details as possible from the storyteller through questioning.

They might ask:

  • “How was the narrator feeling at that moment?”
  • “What would happen if…”
  • “Can you help me picture the character?”

This type of thoughtful questioning helps students visualize the scene more vividly and replaces initial writing jitters with fun and flexibility.

They jot down their ideas with words, pictures, bullets, or anything else that helps them solidify the memories from their spoken stories now that they are ready to prewrite independently.

To See What You’re Writing, Act It Out

Instead of summarizing a whole story from beginning to end, I want students to create a writing piece based on a brief period that includes vivid detail. I’ve found that having students act out a scene helps them grasp this concept. 

First, I’ll have students read aloud a few pages from our class book. Then, in small groups, they’ll act out the scene. “Now that you’ve acted it out, how long do you think this moment would have taken in real life?” I’ll ask. There will be a friendly debate. In the end, students will realize that the scene was a moment of time told with meaningful details, whether they said it took 30 seconds or 10 minutes.

Students then deconstruct the scene they just acted out by creating a timeline of key character actions. For example, using pages 9–10 of The Glass Castle , by Jeannette Walls, the scene breakdown might look like this:

  • At age 3, Jeannette is standing on a chair cooking hot dogs in the kitchenette and feeding them to her dog.
  • Her dress catches on fire, sending flames up her body.
  • Jeannette’s mom, painting in the next room, hears her scream and enters the kitchen.
  • Mom uses an army surplus blanket to put the fire out.
  • Mom, Jeannette, and brother Brian run to the neighbor’s house to get help.
  • The neighbor drops her laundry she was hanging on the line and races to take them to the hospital, saying nothing.

Students will then work independently to apply the same strategy to their own ideas, focusing on showing rather than telling the entire story. Students will share their lists with their groups and then act out each other’s ideas.

The following conversation suggestions help students clarify and solidify their ideas.

Beginning, ending, and timing: Where does the heart of this moment start? Where does it end? When one student describes a moment that feels excessively long, the rest of the group suggests methods to shorten it. If a student has a moment that is too short, the group helps to extend it.

Characters: What is each character doing? What’s their motivation? What do they look like? How are they acting?

Setting: Where and when is this taking place? What’s going on around your characters?

Dialogue: What’s being said, how, and by whom?

Internal thinking: What are the characters thinking?

Students are now ready to move on to independent writing and complete a full draft.

Color-Coding Writing as a Detail-Oriented Strategy

Following the drafting phase, I teach students a variety of revising techniques. Every day I introduce a new one—and they’re color-coded to make it easier for students to distinguish between them. We might, for example, focus on character details one day. First, students will find vivid character descriptions they love from the read-aloud or their own independent reading. Then, they’ll add their own character descriptions to their writing, highlighting them in a particular color.

I encourage students to incorporate each color throughout their drafts. If character details are represented by blue, for example, blue highlighting should be used in the beginning, middle, and end of their pieces. Other color-coded strategies include setting details, figurative language, sensory details, dialogue, and internal thinking.

The use of assorted colors allows students to clearly see areas that have been enriched with vivid details and areas that have not. This visual strategy benefits learners of all levels by instilling confidence and a sense of accomplishment as rainbows of color emerge throughout their work.

This color-coding approach also aids in peer editing and teacher conferencing by encouraging meaningful conversations like this: “I see you’ve developed thoughtfully crafted blues in the beginning to describe the Mom character. How can you assist readers in picturing and getting to know your other characters? How can you incorporate more blues later to describe them?”

To showcase daily accomplishments, students add their favorite highlighted lines to the classroom bulletin boards. While students could easily copy and paste their examples into a shared class Google Doc, I’ve found that they’re more engaged when there’s movement and camaraderie, and they like having their words physically present in the classroom.

Recently I taped a piece of bulletin board paper for students to write on in the front of the classroom and another in the back. A student was waiting patiently for others to finish at the front. I encouraged him to go write his favorite line in the back since there was no wait and it offered more space to write.

“No thanks,” he chirped. “I want everyone to see mine when they walk into the room.”

How to Teach Narrative Writing: A Step-by-Step Approach

how to teach narrative writing

Narrative writing is just another word for storytelling. The good news is students tell stories all the time—they just don’t write them down. Ironically, the moment we ask students to put those stories into writing, they freeze. Suddenly, they don’t know what to write about or where the heck to start.

Knowing how to teach narrative writing is the key to avoiding “brain freezes” and blank pages. But, before we can dive into the how , we need to understand the what .

What is Narrative Writing?

Narrative writing tells a real or fictional story using a logical sequence of events, establishing a beginning, middle, and end. In most pieces of narrative writing, a story develops as a character faces a conflict that is resolved in the end, revealing a universal lesson that has been learned. This lesson is often a major revealing point for the author’s message and the overarching story’s theme.

Unlike the academic essays students are used to writing, narrative stories rely heavily on creative elements such as vivid descriptions, figurative language, point of view, and dialogue. After all, the purpose of this style of writing is to detail experience, reveal perspective, elicit emotion, encourage reflection, or express a deeper meaning. Narrative writing can be used to entertain, educate, inspire, or connect with an audience.

While students may struggle with narrative writing at first, once they get the hang of it they are quick to embrace the opportunity to use their imagination and creativity.

What are the Five Elements of Narrative Writing?

To help students separate narrative writing from the other writing genres they’ve learned, it’s important they understand the five main elements of the genre:

  • Character(s)

These five elements work together to create a well-structured narrative story.

Why Teach Narrative Writing?

Narrative writing equips students with the power of storytelling. Teaching narrative writing is about more than sharing the tools needed to enjoy, analyze, or tell a good story. It’s more than meeting standards and following the curriculum.

When we teach students the power of a well-told story, we are teaching them how stories can bring us together or tear us apart. How they can shift perspectives, establish connections, and build relationships. That stories have the power to inspire others, elicit emotions, and spark change. 

Once we help students understand the power of telling stories, we can move on to teaching them how to tell these stories through writing.

How to Teach Narrative Writing: A Step-By-Step Approach 

Telling a story isn’t a new concept to students. However, doing it well and writing it down is a whole different ball game. With the right steps, mentor texts, and activities, students can master narrative writing in no time. (Okay, in some cases, it might take a little bit of time and practice, but they’ll get there.) Want to guide your students toward storytelling success? Follow my step-by-step approach to planning your next narrative writing unit:

1. Get Students Talking (or Thinking)

Don’t jump into asking students to write a full-blown narrative story. Instead, get them to talk about stories first. Start by giving them simple prompts to help pull out stories from their own lives. For example, ask them to think about a time when they were embarrassed or had the best birthday ever. Ask them about a time they overcame a fear or stood up for something they believed in. While not all narrative writing is personal , it’s always useful to start with something students know.

Bell ringer activities like a question of the day or quick writes are a great way to get students thinking about the bones of narrative writing without even realizing it. 

2. Focus on Story Structure  

Any narrative writing unit should include a formal study of story structure. Students must understand the essential elements of a plot and basic story elements— and how they all work together to tell a compelling and cohesive story.

However, understanding story structure goes beyond identifying a classic story arc, including exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Before students attempt to plan and write their own piece of narrative writing, they must also understand the following:

  • Stories should have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  • Writers manipulate time (and pacing) to control a story.
  • Point of view impacts the reader’s experience.
  • Setting provides readers with context regarding the time and place.
  • Conflict and characters drive a plot forward—and make the story interesting.
  • Conflict is an opportunity for a character to learn a lesson or undergo transformation.
  • A theme or message reveals what a narrative story is really about.

3. Read Strong Mentor Texts

Now it’s time to take some time to read and unpack strong mentor texts. Short stories and even picture books make for perfect narrative writing mentor texts. Spend time analyzing and discussing the story structures of each text to give students more context of the elements you’ve been teaching up to this point. 

Have students fill out a classic plot diagram as they identify and analyze a story’s narrative arc. And don’t stop at the plot. Guide students through activities and discussions to unpack and understand the other essential elements of a mentor text’s story structure, like theme, conflict, and character, too.

4. Brainstorm ideas

Whether you’re asking students to write personal narratives or create fictional stories, getting started is always the hardest part.Sentence starters and writing prompts are great ways to get students thinking. Having students share their ideas with each other is another great way to spark inspiration throughout the classroom. Use this brainstorming stage as an opportunity to check in with students and help those who are struggling to come up with any “good” ideas.

Without a topic or idea that excites them, students will struggle through the rest of the writing process. However, students often get caught up in thinking they need to have some big elaborate story. That’s when I remind them that even small moments and simple stories can have a big impact on a reader.

5. Map It Out

Ideas are great and all, but story maps are vital to ensuring there is actually a story to tell. Before they start panicking at this phase, remind them that they do not have to have the whole story figured out just yet. Instead, this step acts more as an outline of their general plot points and overarching ideas. Have them map out the elements of their story including the conflict, main sequence of events, climax, and resolution.

Story maps are super useful because students can refer back to them throughout the writing process to keep their stories on track. However, I like to remind students that they may decide to adjust their plan as they write—and that’s okay too.

6. Complete a Fast Draft

I know—first drafts can be really painful. There is a lot of staring at blank papers and claiming “I don’t know what to write.” Oftentimes, this is because students are so worried about having everything figured out before they start writing. This is where fast drafts come in handy.

Rather than asking students to flesh out a traditional first draft of their narrative piece, have them write their story down as quickly as possible. However, they do want to touch upon all major elements from their story map. The draft can be messy or some details may be missing, and that’s totally okay at this stage. This step is all about progress, not perfection. This fast draft will serve as a starting point that students can build upon.

7. Start the Narrative Writing Workshop

After students complete a fast draft, it’s time to move into the writer’s workshop. A narrative writing workshop includes writing, check-ins, feedback, and mini-lessons. These workshop days are some of the most essential days of the unit. Start each workshop day with a mini-lesson focusing on a specific element of narrative writing craft. Then, give students time to implant what they’ve learned with their draft, checking in and providing feedback as they work. Over time, that fast draft will start to turn into a well-developed story.

Wondering what to teach during a narrative writing unit? The following topics make for great narrative writing mini-lessons or workshop stations:

  • Descriptive writing (Show vs. Tell)
  • Figurative language
  • Word choice
  • Transitions
  • Tone and mood
  • Strong endings
  • Engaging hooks

8. Review, Revise, Edit. (Repeat.)

Students love to take the one-and-done approach to writing. That’s why I like to include time for in-class revisions during a narrative writing unit.  Guide students through both self and peer revisions. Giving students clear guidelines and expectations for revisions is vital to avoid wasting time.

I like to work through revisions in stages, focusing on one element of revision at a time.  This makes it easier for students to provide valuable and pointed feedback to each other or note areas for improvement in their own writing. For example, I may have students circle any weak verbs or descriptions before having them add more vivid verbs or details. Only then can they move on to the next revision task focusing on dialogue tags or transitions. Additionally, I always save general writing mechanics for last. This allows students to focus on bettering their overall story before honing in on more technical edits. 

Read this post to learn more about making the most out of peer reviews.

9. Celebrate Student Stories

Yay! Your students have completed their pieces of narrative writing. Students worked too hard to have their work go right into a “waiting to be graded” pile. Give them an opportunity to share their stories with each other by hosting an author reading where they read excerpts of their stories to the class. Alternatively, students can design a “story poster” or complete a one-pager project to display around the classroom.

The Bottom Line?

No one likes reading a boring story. However, it’s even worse having to grade one.

Luckily, when students are engaged in a well-planned narrative writing unit, it can be a lot of fun for everyone. However, if your students aren’t buying in or simply aren’t following along, you’ll likely spend a lot of time reading really bad stories. I hope this post helps you achieve the former (and avoid the latter) by giving you a clear and well-structured plan for how to teach narrative writing. 

I encourage you to take my approach to teaching narrative writing and make it your own, making adjustments to best meet the needs of your students. And if this isn’t your first narrative writing rodeo and you have any fun ideas for mini-lessons or narrative writing activities, I’d love to hear them! Share them in the comments below.

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How to Teach Narrative Writing

Last Updated: July 6, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 31,611 times.

Narrative writing is fun to teach, but it can also be a challenge! Whether you need to teach college or grade school students, there are lots of great options for lessons. Start by getting your students familiar with the genre, then use in-class activities to help them practice creating their own narratives. Once your students understand how narratives work, assign a narrative essay for students to demonstrate and hone their skills.

Introducing the Genre

Step 1 Teach that a narrative has characters, conflict, and a solution.

  • A specific point-of-view on the events of the story
  • Vivid details that incorporate all 5 senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste)
  • A reflection on what the experience meant

Step 2 Assign model essays, videos, and podcasts.

  • Have your students read narrative essays, such as "My Indian Education" by Sherman Alexie, "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell, "Learning to Read" by Malcolm X, or "Fish Cheeks" by Amy Tan.
  • Show your students a movie, such as Moana or Frozen and then plot out the structure of the story with your students.
  • Have your students listen to a podcast or radio segment that features a short narrative, such as the Modern Love podcast or NPR's "This I Believe" series.

If you want to show a film but you are short on time, show a short film or sketch comedy clip , such as something from a channel you like on Youtube. Choose something that will grab your students' attention!

Step 3 Discuss models in class to identify the features of narratives.

  • Who are the characters in this story? What are they like? How can you tell?
  • Who is telling the story?
  • What happens to the characters?
  • How do they work towards a solution to the problem?
  • Where and when does the story take place?
  • What is the mood of the story?

Step 4 Map out the plot and characters in model essays.

  • For example, start by looking at the action and characters in the introduction. How does the author introduce the story? The characters?
  • Then, move to the body paragraphs to identify how the story develops. What happens? Who does it happen to? How do the characters respond?
  • Finish your map by looking at the conclusion to the story. How is the conflict resolved? What effect does this resolution have on the characters in the story?

Using In-Class Activities

Step 1 Ask students to contribute a word or sentence to a story.

  • For example, you might start the story by saying “Once,” which another student might follow with “upon,” another with “a,” and another with “time,” and so on.
  • You might also give the story more structure by giving your students a model to follow. For example, you might require them to follow a format, such as this one: "The-adjective-noun-adverb-verb-the-adjective-noun." Post the format where all of the students can follow along as they tell their story.
  • To build a story sentence by sentence, you might start with “Once upon a time, there was a princess named Jezebel.” And then the next student might add, “She was betrothed to a foreign prince, but she did not want to get married.” And another might add, “One her wedding day, she fled the country.”

Step 2 Have students write a paragraph and let their classmates add to it.

  • Allow each student about 7 to 10 minutes to write their paragraph.
  • Return the stories to the student who wrote the opening paragraph so they can see how other people continued their story.
  • Ask students to share how their story progressed after they passed it to their neighbor.

Step 3 Instruct students on showing versus telling in their stories.

  • For example, if the author of a story writes, “Sally was so angry,” then they are telling. However, the author would be showing by writing, “Sally slammed the car door shut and stomped off towards her house. Before she went inside, she turned, shot me a furious look, and shouted, 'I never want to see you again!'”
  • The first example tells readers that Sally is angry, while the second example shows readers that Sally is angry using her actions and words.
  • A great way to practice this concept is to give students a plot point or have them create their own. Then, have the students work on showing the plot point using only dialogue.

Step 4 Provide questions to...

  • What does the character look like? Hair/eye/skin color? Height/weight/age? Clothing? Other distinguishing features?
  • What mannerisms does the person have? Any nervous ticks? How does their voice sound?
  • What is their personality like? Is the person an optimist or pessimist?
  • What are their likes/dislikes? Hobbies? Profession?

Step 5 Use a suspenseful opening line as a writing prompt for students.

  • The diner was empty, except for me, the waitress, the cook, and a lone gunman.
  • I was lost in a strange city with no money, no phone, and no way to contact anyone.
  • The creature disappeared as suddenly and unexpectedly as it had arrived.

Step 6 Have students create an island and write as if they were stranded.

  • Invite students to share what happened on their islands at the end of the 5 days.
  • Display the island drawings and descriptions on the wall of your classroom.

Make it your goal to do 1 activity in class each day ! This will help to ensure that your students are getting lots of exposure to what a narrative is and how it works before they write their own narratives.

Assigning a Narrative Essay

Step 1 Explain the assignment and invite questions.

  • Tell your students if you are using a theme or focus. For example, if you want students to write their narrative on an experience with reading or writing, then you might provide examples, such as the first novel they read and fell in love with, or the time they had to totally rewrite a paper for an English class.
  • Also, include details in the rubric on the required length of the essay, special features you expect to see, and any formatting requirements.

Step 2 Require students to submit a pre-writing activity.

  • Make sure to provide students with feedback on their pre-write activities. Encourage them on what sounds like it has the most potential and steer them away from topics that seem too broad or that would not hold up well as narratives.
  • For example, if a student submits a freewrite in which they discuss wanting to write about all of the English teachers they have ever had, this would be too broad and you would want to encourage them to narrow their topic, such as by writing about 1 teacher only.

Step 3 Encourage students to start drafting early.

  • For example, if the paper is due on April 1st, then students ought to start drafting at least 1 week in advance, or sooner if possible. This will help to ensure that they will have plenty of time to revise their work.

Step 4 Hold an in-class revision session.

  • Does the story seem complete? What else could be added?
  • Is the topic too narrow or too broad? Does the paper maintain its focus or is it disorganized?
  • Are the introduction and conclusion effective? How might they be improved?

For a creative way to showcase your students' stories, have them to transform their essays into a different format and share it with the class! For example, your students could turn their essay into a podcast, short film, or drawing.

Expert Q&A

You might also like.

Teach Spoken English for Beginners

  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/essay_writing/narrative_essays.html
  • ↑ https://www.edutopia.org/article/systematic-approach-teaching-narrative-writing/
  • ↑ https://intensiveintervention.org/sites/default/files/Narrative-Text-Structures-508.pdf
  • ↑ https://lewisu.edu/writingcenter/pdf/narrative-elements-1.pdf
  • ↑ https://cdn.ncte.org/nctefiles/resources/books/sample/00465chap07.pdf
  • ↑ https://www.grammarly.com/blog/narrative-writing/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/revising-drafts/

About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

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Writing Curriculum

Teach Narrative Writing With The New York Times

This teaching guide, part of our eight-unit writing curriculum, includes daily writing prompts, lessons based on selected mentor texts, and an invitation for students to participate in our 100-word personal narrative contest.

teaching narrative writing 7th grade

By The Learning Network

Stories can thrill, wound, delight, uplift and teach. Telling a story vividly and powerfully is a vital skill that is deeply valued across all cultures, past and present — and narrative writing is, of course, a key genre for literacy instruction at every level.

When your students think “New York Times,” they probably think of our 172-year history of award-winning journalism, and may not even realize that The Times today is full of personal narratives — on love and family , but also on how we relate to animals , live with disabilities or navigate anxiety . If you flip or scroll through sections of the paper, you’ll see that personal writing is everywhere, and often ranks among the most popular pieces The Times publishes each week.

At The Learning Network, we’ve been posting writing prompts every school day for over a decade now, and many of them invite personal narrative. Inspired by Times articles of all kinds, the prompts ask students to tell us about their passions and their regrets, their most embarrassing moments and their greatest achievements. Thousands of students around the world respond each month, and each week during the school year we call out our favorite responses .

In this unit we’re taking it a step further and turning our narrative-writing opportunities into a contest that invites students to tell their own stories. Below, you’ll find plenty of ideas and resources to get your students reading, writing and thinking about their own stories, including:

✔ New narrative-writing prompts every week.

✔ Daily opportunities for students to have an authentic audience for their writing via posting comments to our forums.

✔ Guided practice with mentor texts that include writing exercises.

✔ A clear, achievable end-product (our contest) modeled on real-world writing.

✔ The chance for students to have their work published in The New York Times.

Here’s how it works.

Start with personal-narrative prompts for low-stakes writing.

teaching narrative writing 7th grade

Related Article | Related Picture Prompt

Every week during the school year we publish new narrative writing prompts on a vast array of topics via our Student Opinion and Picture Prompts columns. These prompts can be a starting point to help your students start reflecting on their lives and the stories they have to tell.

Each prompt is inspired by a Times article, which is free if you access it through our site, and all are open for comment for students 13 and up. Every comment is read by Learning Network editors before it is approved.

Teachers have told us they use our prompts as an opportunity for daily writing practice, a communal space where students can practice honing voice, trying new techniques and writing for a real audience. And if students are writing formal personal narrative essays, whether for college applications, for our contest or for any other reason, our prompts might serve as inspiration to help them find topics.

Student Opinion Questions

We publish a new Student Opinion question every school day, including many that invite personal writing. Students will read a related Times article and then respond to questions that help them think about how it applies to their own lives, like these:

“ What Cultural Traditions Are Important to You? ” “ Has Forgiving Someone Ever Made You Feel Better? ” “ How Do You Get Over Rejection? ”

You can find them all, as they publish, here . Or check out our collection of 445 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing for years-worth of evergreen questions, organized into categories like family, school, personality and childhood memories.

Picture Prompts

These accessible, image-driven prompts inspire a variety of kinds of writing and we publish them Tuesday through Friday during the school year. Each week we post at least one prompt that asks students to share experiences from their lives, such as this one that invites students to write about memories of their childhood homes , and one that asks them to tell a story about a moment from their lives inspired by an image, such as this one .

You can find all of our Picture Prompts, as they publish, here . At the end of each school year, we round them all up and categorize them by genre of writing. Take a look at our collections from 2017 , 2018 , 2019 , 2020 , 2021 , 2022 and 2023 and scroll down to look for the categories like “What story does this image inspire for you?” and “Share experiences from your own life” to find many prompts that can inspire narratives.

A special “rehearsal space” for teenagers to experiment writing 100-word narratives.

To help with our Tiny Memoir contest, we posted a student forum last year asking, “ What Story From Your Life Can You Tell in 100 Words? ” In it, we lead students through a few questions, and provide a few examples, to show them how. It is still open for comment. We hope that as they search for topics and try out techniques, students will post their drafts here for others to read and comment on.

Read mentor texts and try some of the “writer’s moves” we spotlight.

The Times is full of wonderful writing that can serve as mentor texts for helping students look at the various elements of the genre and think about how to weave specific craft moves into their own writing. We have a couple of ways students can use them for narrative writing.

Mentor Texts Lessons

For our 2023 Tiny Memoir Contest for Students, in which students are invited to describe a meaningful true moment from their lives in 100 words or fewer, we have a set of mentor texts, all of which can be found in our step-by-step guide: How to Write a 100-Word Narrative: A Guide for Our Tiny Memoir Contest . The 25 texts we use can also be found in this PDF .

During the years when we ran a Personal Narrative Contest that allowed students 600 words to tell a story, we broke narrative writing into several key elements and spotlighted a mentor text that does a particularly good job at each. All of them are still applicable to our new contest, which spotlights the same qualities, just in miniature. They have also been woven in to our step-by-step guide :

Tell a story about a small but memorable event or moment in your life.

Use details to show, not tell.

Write from your own point of view, in your real voice.

Use dialogue effectively.

Drop the reader into a scene.

Tell a complete story, with a true narrative arc.

Reflect on the experience and give the reader a take-away.

After students read each of the mentor texts on this list and focus on a specific technique, we invite them to “Now Try This” via an exercise that helps them practice that element. Then, we provide additional mentor text examples, as well as a list of questions to consider while reading any of them. The goal is to demystify what good writing looks like, and encourage students to practice concrete exercises to use those techniques.

Annotated by the Author

But our favorite mentor texts to assign? The work of the teenage winners of our narrative contests. Here are the 2019 , 2020 and 2021 collections of our Personal Narrative Contest. And here are the winners of our first-ever 100-Word Narrative Contest . Which of these pieces do your students like best? What “writer’s moves” might they emulate in their own work?

We also invited three teenagers who won our 2019 contest to annotate their winning narratives for our “Annotated by the Author” series. In these pieces, they demystify their writing process and share ideas other students can try in their own essays.

Annotated by the Author: ‘Speechless’

Annotated by the Author: ‘Pants on Fire’

Annotated by the Author: ‘Cracks in the Pavement’

In addition, we have a piece annotated by the college-aged author of a winning Modern Love piece. In Annotated by the Author: ‘Why Can’t Men Say “I Love You” to Each Other?’ Ricardo F. Jaramillo tells us how to make your reader want to keep reading, how to balance scenes and ideas, why you can’t write a personal essay without “looking inside,” and much more.

Enter our “ Tiny Memoir” Personal Narrative Essay Contest .

At this point in the unit, your students will have practiced writing about their lives using our many prompts. They will also have read several mentor texts, and practiced elements of personal writing with each one. Now, we hope, they can produce a polished piece of writing that brings it all together.

For three years, we ran a personal narrative contest that asked for a “short, powerful story about a meaningful life experience” in 600 words or less. But last year, we debuted our Tiny Memoir Contest that challenged students to tell us a story from their lives in just 100 words. The results blew us away. Teachers told us it was one of the most engaging assignments they gave all year and that the word limit made students’ writing much more focused and powerful. So this year, we’re running it again. We hope this contest will be fun for your students, and a useful exercise if they are going on to write longer pieces, such as a college essay.

Beyond a caution to write no more than 100 words, our contest is fairly open-ended. We’re not asking students to write to a particular theme or use a specific structure or style; instead, we encourage them to experiment and produce something that they feel represents their real voice, telling a tale that matters to them.

All student work will be read by Times editors or journalists and/or by educators from around the country. Winners will have their work published on our site and, perhaps, in the print New York Times.

Though our 100-word contest is slightly different than the original, we still recommend that before students submit, they watch this two-minute video in which student winners from past years share advice on the writing, editing and submission process. Ask students:

What techniques did these students employ that helped make their entries successful?

What did these students gain from having entered this contest? What were some of the challenges they encountered?

What advice can your students use as they work on their own submissions?

This contest will run from Oct. 4 to Nov. 1, 2023. We will link the official announcement here when it publishes, but in the meantime, here are last year’s rules and guidelines , which will remain largely the same.

Additional Resources

While the core of our unit is the prompts, mentor texts and contest, we also offer additional resources to inspire and support teachers, including lesson plans and great ideas from our readers around personal narrative writing.

Lesson Plans

“ From ‘Lives’ to ‘Modern Love’: Writing Personal Essays With Help From The New York Times ”

“ I Remember: Teaching About the Role of Memory Across the Curriculum ”

“ Creative State of Mind: Focusing on the Writing Process ”

“ Writing Narratives With ‘Tiny Love Stories’ ”

“ Telling Short, Memorable Stories With Metropolitan Diary ”

Reader Ideas

“ Flipping the Script on the College Essay With Help From The New York Times ”

“ Teaching Great Writing One Sentence at a Time ”

“ Using the Modern Love Podcast to Teach Narrative Writing ”

“ Fostering Selfhood and Inspiring Student Writers Using ‘Metropolitan Diary’ ”

Teaching Narrative Writing With The New York Times (On-Demand)

Personal Narratives From the Newsroom to the Classroom (On-Demand)

Free Printable Narrative Writing Worksheets for 7th Grade

Narrative Writing: Discover a collection of free printable worksheets for Grade 7 Reading & Writing teachers, focusing on enhancing students' narrative writing skills and creativity.

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Narrative Writing worksheets for Grade 7 are an essential tool for teachers to help their students develop strong reading and writing skills. These worksheets focus on various aspects of narrative writing, such as creating engaging characters, building a compelling plot, and using descriptive language. By incorporating these worksheets into their lesson plans, teachers can provide their students with the necessary practice to improve their writing abilities. Additionally, these worksheets can be used to teach students about different types of narratives, such as fiction and nonfiction writing. As students progress through their Grade 7 curriculum, they will become more confident in their reading and writing abilities, thanks to the support provided by these valuable resources.

Quizizz is an excellent platform that offers a variety of educational resources, including Narrative Writing worksheets for Grade 7. Teachers can use Quizizz to create engaging and interactive quizzes, which can be used alongside the worksheets to assess students' understanding of the material. Furthermore, Quizizz offers a wide range of other resources, such as Reading & Writing activities and Nonfiction Writing exercises, which can be used to supplement the Narrative Writing worksheets. By incorporating Quizizz into their teaching strategies, teachers can provide a well-rounded and comprehensive approach to developing their students' reading and writing skills. This platform not only helps students improve their abilities but also makes learning fun and enjoyable, ensuring that students remain engaged and motivated throughout their Grade 7 journey.

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Preview of Common Core Text-Dependent Writing Narrative Prompt Grade 7

Common Core Text-Dependent Writing Narrative Prompt Grade 7

teaching narrative writing 7th grade

Introduction to Narrative Writing ( Grade 5- 7 Ontario Curriculum Friendly)

teaching narrative writing 7th grade

Narrative Writing Unit for grades 5- 7

teaching narrative writing 7th grade

Christmas Activity BUNDLE: Creative, Narrative & Persuasive Writing - Grades 7 -12

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Candy Memoir Narrative Creative Writing Resource for Grades 5- 7

teaching narrative writing 7th grade

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teaching narrative writing 7th grade

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Preview of Middle School English: Narrative and Descriptive Writing Unit for Grades 7-8

Middle School English: Narrative and Descriptive Writing Unit for Grades 7 -8

teaching narrative writing 7th grade

Middle School English: Narrative Writing Unit for Grades 6- 7 *NEW*

Preview of Writing Module #3 | Write a Narrative | Experiencing Nature | Grades 7-12

Writing Module #3 | Write a Narrative | Experiencing Nature | Grades 7 -12

teaching narrative writing 7th grade

Narrative (s), Expository, Persuasive Rubrics for Writing Grades 5- 7

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Narrative Writing Rubric - Grades 7 -8

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Grade 7 Narrative Writing Performance-Based Assessment with Alcott

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If I was a Leprechaun - Narrative Writing Grades 4 - 7

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58 Expository and Narrative Writing Prompts for Grades 4 - 7 essay starters

teaching narrative writing 7th grade

Lucy Calkins Grade 7 Narrative Writing Checklist in Spanish

teaching narrative writing 7th grade

Narrative Writing in Math! Grade 7

Preview of Narrative Writing in Math! Grade 7

Narrative Writing in Math Unit 2 Grade 7

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teaching narrative writing 7th grade

  • Jan 13, 2022

Realistic Fiction Writing: Narratives with Meaning

teaching narrative writing 7th grade

When I was told I was going to be teaching a 7th grade section this year (I only ever taught 6th and put my heart and SOUL into 6th), I was instantly stressed. What OTHER writing could I possibly do that I haven't done with my 6th graders? I do personal narrative , fiction writing in response to reading , research essays , eBooks, literary essays , and fantasy writing in 6th...that's a whole lot! When I prepped my 6th grade units, my intention was to cover everything .

Well, I always search first for Units of Study by Lucy Calkins. I know many people have mixed feelings about her, as do I, but I love her units as a basis for my own units. I do not use her units religiously and never use the scripted writing. So, I got the 7th grade writing units and started digging through the material.

One of the first units is Realistic Fiction Writing. I read the unit and here's my take on it.

The Process

I start with revisiting personal narrative writing. I have them brainstorm ideas for personal narratives and actually write those narratives. As always, I sample one for them. This also allows me to see their writing abilities since this is my first writing unit for the school year.

teaching narrative writing 7th grade

After they write their narrative, I continue the process of brainstorming based on their own lives . I like to give a lot of real-life examples of movies or shows that were inspired by the creator's own life. I reference the book Ghost by Jason Reynolds, a read-aloud they had the year prior, and how that was inspired by his own childhood.

So, they list more moments from their lives that could inspire fictional stories. I then have them start listing story ideas, encouraging them to focus on a problem that could occur .

teaching narrative writing 7th grade

After every brainstorm, they write about a topic. They try out the stories .

Next up, and this is where I want them to zero in, I have them focus on current events and social issues . We discuss issues in the world, list those issues, and write ideas based on those issues. I have them go on Newsela for inspiration on topics.

teaching narrative writing 7th grade

Once they lock down an idea for a story, the next important aspect of realistic writing is character! They complete a slide that focuses on the main character , what they want, what motivates them, what obstacles get in the way, and attitude toward themself/others.

We touch upon the opposing character but not a ton as I want this to be focused more on the issue and on the main character. I did a lot of character developing the year prior with their fantasy stories. I also don't do a lot with setting because, like I said, this was more important with the fantasy writing. I wanted this story to be character-centered .

Writing Scenes

I love teaching students to write scenes as opposed to a set structure. The Lucy Calkins' unit has a lesson on putting the character in an everyday scene . I elaborated on that, having the students use this scene as an opener. Putting the character in their world DOING something is a great introduction in a story. Having them in school, at camp, at home...interacting with people (or not). This all can pave the way to what could happen in the story.

teaching narrative writing 7th grade

The final step before getting into the drafting of the full story is planning out the story. I always use a story structure chart as my go-to for this. First, I have them use the chart with a mentor short story...one I've used before. Then, they plan their stories based on the chart. You could get this chart for free if you subscribe to my site!

teaching narrative writing 7th grade

Last but not least, they write! I have a story that I show them. I go through it with them, working through revisions, etc. It's super important that you write what you expect them to write .

That's Not All

There are so many lessons you can do within this unit. Some other lessons you should get into, if not addressed already:

I do show don't tell , focusing on description.

A few lessons on dialogue . Not just punctuating it, but using it to elaborate.

Giving characters problems. You could do this by analyzing some mentors and how the characters always have problems. Interpret how the author presents the problem.

Speaking of mentors, I spend a lot of time having them look at mentor stories, analyzing author's craft and story structure. This also follows my investigating characterization unit .

You may want to consider going over mood and tone , as well, although I focus on this more during fantasy.

Bottom Line

My students loved my story. They actually cheered at the end! They really liked writing about realistic situations because they were able to relate to the scenarios.

It's a great unit to follow a character unit or a personal narrative unit. It's also a great way to start the year with writing.

You can get this entire unit by clicking the picture below!

teaching narrative writing 7th grade

***Want a CUSTOM BUNDLE from me? Click below!***

teaching narrative writing 7th grade

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  • ELA 2019 G7:M1:U3:L4

Write a Narrative: Analyze a Model

In this lesson, daily learning targets, ongoing assessment.

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Supporting English Language Learners

Materials from previous lessons, new materials, closing & assessments, you are here:.

  • ELA 2019 Grade 7
  • ELA 2019 G7:M1
  • ELA 2019 G7:M1:U3

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Focus Standards:  These are the standards the instruction addresses.

  • W.7.3 , W.7.4

Supporting Standards:  These are the standards that are incidental—no direct instruction in this lesson, but practice of these standards occurs as a result of addressing the focus standards.  

  • RL.7.1 , RL.7.4 , RL.7.10 , W.7.5 , W.7.10 , L7.5c , L.7.6
  • I can generate criteria for an effective narrative. ( W.7.3 , W.7.4 )
  • Opening A: Entrance Ticket: Unit 3, Lesson 4 ( RL.7.4 , L.7.5c )
  • Work Time B: Narrative Writing Plan graphic organizer ( W.7.3 , W.7.4 , W.7.5 , W.7.10 )
  • Ensure there is a copy of Entrance Ticket: Unit 3, Lesson 4 at each student's workspace.
  • Read Nasreen's Secret School to be familiar with the story.
  • Review the Narrative Writing checklist.
  • Post the learning target and applicable anchor charts (see Materials list).

Tech and Multimedia

Work Time B: Ebook Nasreen's Secret School and projector to display it

Supports guided in part by CA ELD Standards 7.I.B.6, 7.I.B.7, 7.I.B.8, and 7.I.C.10.

Important Points in the Lesson Itself

  • To support ELLs, this lesson provides the opportunity to analyze a model narrative, Nasreen's Secret School , which they can use to understand the structure, conventions, and language they will need to use in their own narratives. Having a concrete model to refer to when writing clearly and transparently demonstrates for ELLs the attributes of narrative writing in English they need to use.
  • ELLs may find understanding the language in the read-aloud difficult if it is done too quickly or without any background information to provide a context for understanding the story. Therefore, additional supports such as the ones below may be useful when presenting the read-aloud.
  • criteria, effective, generate (A)
  • haze, narrative (DS)

(A): Academic Vocabulary

(DS): Domain-Specific Vocabulary

  • Close Readers Do These Things anchor chart (one for display; from Unit 1, Lesson 4, Opening A)
  • Academic word wall (one for display; from Unit 1, Lesson 1, Opening A)
  • Domain-specific word wall (one for display; from Unit 1, Lesson 1, Work Time B)
  • Text Guide: A Long Walk to Water (for teacher reference) (from Unit 1, Lesson 2, Work Time A)
  • Work to Become Ethical People anchor chart (one for display; from Unit 1, Lesson 2, Opening B)
  • Questions about A Long Walk to Water anchor chart (one for display; from Unit 1, Lesson 2, Work Time A)
  • Questions about A Long Walk to Water anchor chart (example for teacher reference; from Unit 1, Lesson 2, Work Time A)  
  • Affix List ( See Tools page  to download the grade-level Affix lists)
  • Vocabulary log (one per student; from Unit 1, Lesson 2, Opening A)
  • A Long Walk to Water (text; one per student; from Unit 1, Lesson 1, Work Time C)
  • Entrance Ticket: Unit 3, Lesson 4 (answers for teacher reference)
  • Chart paper
  • Criteria of an Effective Narrative anchor chart (example for teacher reference)
  • Criteria of an Effective Narrative anchor chart (one for display; co-created in Work Time B)
  • Nasreen's Secret School (ebook to display and read aloud)
  • Device with which to display the ebook
  • Narrative Writing Plan graphic organizer (example for teacher reference)
  • Entrance Ticket: Unit 3, Lesson 4 (one per student)
  • Online or print dictionaries (including ELL and home language dictionaries; one per small group of students)  
  • Synopsis: A Long Walk to Water , Chapter 18 (one per student)
  • Sticky notes (one of each gist color per student and one of an additional color per student)
  • Narrative Writing Plan graphic organizer (one per student and one to display)
  • Narrative Writing checklist (one per student and one to display)
  • Homework: Create Illustrations (one per student; see unit download)

Each unit in the 6-8 Language Arts Curriculum has two standards-based assessments built in, one mid-unit assessment and one end of unit assessment. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize students' understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.

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IMAGES

  1. Teaching Narrative Writing in the Primary Classroom

    teaching narrative writing 7th grade

  2. 7th Grade Writing Workshop: Personal Narrative

    teaching narrative writing 7th grade

  3. Personal narrative examples 7th grade

    teaching narrative writing 7th grade

  4. 7th Grade Narrative Writing Unit with Slides

    teaching narrative writing 7th grade

  5. Narrative leads-examples given Teaching Narrative Writing, Personal

    teaching narrative writing 7th grade

  6. NarrativeWritingAnchorChart

    teaching narrative writing 7th grade

VIDEO

  1. Narrative Writing Part 4: Add More!

  2. Personal Narrative (7th Grade)

  3. Narrative Text for 7th Grade

COMMENTS

  1. A Step-by-Step Plan for Teaching Narrative Writing

    Step 2: Study the Structure of a Story. Now that students have a good library of their own personal stories pulled into short-term memory, shift your focus to a more formal study of what a story looks like. Use a diagram to show students a typical story arc like the one below.

  2. Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students

    A narrative can spark emotion, encourage reflection, and convey meaning when done well. Narratives are a popular genre for students and teachers as they allow the writer to share their imagination, creativity, skill, and understanding of nearly all elements of writing. We occasionally refer to a narrative as 'creative writing' or story writing.

  3. A Systematic Approach to Teaching Narrative Writing

    As a middle school language arts teacher, I've developed a systematic approach to writing that helps students improve their storytelling skills. It includes strategies for writing in a variety of genres, such as personal narrative, memoir, and creative nonfiction. And in the revision stage I teach a color-coded approach to analyzing details ...

  4. Teaching Narrative Writing: 14 Activities to Help Your Students Learn

    Arrange your students in a circle. The teacher joins the circle. Start the round-robin by reading aloud one of the Narrative Sentence Starter Cards. Moving in a clockwise direction, ask the next person to continue the story. The teacher finishes off the story when it returns to the starting point.

  5. Narrative Writing Teaching Resources for 7th Grade

    Teach narrative writing this school year with writing prompts, printable worksheets, storyboards and story maps and more teaching resources created by... Narrative Writing Teaching Resources for 7th Grade | Teach Starter

  6. How to Teach Narrative Writing: A Step-by-Step Approach

    Have students fill out a classic plot diagram as they identify and analyze a story's narrative arc. And don't stop at the plot. Guide students through activities and discussions to unpack and understand the other essential elements of a mentor text's story structure, like theme, conflict, and character, too. 4.

  7. How to Teach Narrative Writing: 14 Steps (with Pictures ...

    2. Have students write a paragraph and let their classmates add to it. For a more advanced way to have students collaborate on a narrative, have each student write the first paragraph of a story. Then, ask the students to pass their paragraph to the right so that their neighbor can add onto it.

  8. Teach Narrative Writing With The New York Times

    This teaching guide, part of our eight-unit writing curriculum, includes daily writing prompts, lessons based on selected mentor texts, and an invitation for students to participate in our 100 ...

  9. Write a Narrative: Plan Character and Setting

    W.7.3a - Work Time C: Students use the model narrative to plan the character and setting (s) of their own narratives about a Lost Child of Sudan. W.7.5 - Closing and Assessment A: Students share their plans with a partner to develop and strengthen their writing with peer support. The Think-Pair-Share protocol is used in this lesson.

  10. 32 Tips for Teaching Narrative Writing

    Focus your shared writing session on one or two elements of narrative writing. For example, focus on text structure, ideas, characters and setting or vocabulary. Keep it short. This will depend on the year level of your class. 10 -15 minutes is an awesome effort.

  11. 13 Mentor Texts for Teaching Narrative Writing

    Narrative Writing, Mentor Texts, & Visual Rubrics. Don't forget to use these mentor texts to model, model, model. As you read the mentor texts above use them to create visual rubrics for your students to refer to during their own writing. There's a great visual rubric included in the Writing Bulletin Board. Get the Writing Bulletin Board.

  12. Write a Narrative: Plan Narrative Techniques

    New skills are introduced in the following: W.7.3b - Work Time A: Students learn about how description and dialogue can impact pacing. W.7.3b - Work Time B: Students apply their learning from the mini lesson to plan the pacing, dialogue, and description of their narrative. W.7.3c - Closing and Assessment A: Students review and use ...

  13. 45 Narrative Writing Prompts for 7th Grade

    45 Narrative Writing Prompts for 7th Grade. Preteens and teenagers have a lot to say, but they don't always know just how to express their emotions or say what's on their mind. By implementing narrative writing into your curriculum, you give your students an outlet to experiment with in a safe and structured environment.

  14. Narrative Unit

    On-demand prompts do NOT go into the grade book, but rather serve as a baseline (1st prompt) and as a measure of growth (2nd prompt). Data gathered from the baseline prompt is used to direct our classroom instruction. Unit Documents/Activities: Narrative Writing Checklist for 7th Grade; Test Drive Scene "Other" Assessment; Setting Exploration ...

  15. Free Printable Narrative Writing Worksheets for 7th Grade

    Narrative Writing worksheets for Grade 7 are an essential tool for teachers to help their students develop strong reading and writing skills. These worksheets focus on various aspects of narrative writing, such as creating engaging characters, building a compelling plot, and using descriptive language. By incorporating these worksheets into ...

  16. Narrative Writing Rubric for 7th grade

    Use this standards-based Narrative Writing Rubric for 7th grade to assess your students' narrative writing skills! This helpful rubric covers the major standards in seventh-grade narrative writing, including organization, technique, transitions, style, and conclusion.

  17. Printable 7th Grade Narrative Writing Worksheets

    Narrative Writing Rubric for 7th grade. Worksheet. What's Your Story? Doing the Impossible. Worksheet. 1. Browse Printable 7th Grade Narrative Writing Worksheets. Award winning educational materials designed to help kids succeed. Start for free now!

  18. Narrative Writing Grade 7 Teaching Resources

    RoseandMay's English Classroom Resources. $4.95. Zip. Middle School English: Narrative and Descriptive Writing Unit for Grades 7-8This highly engaging and enjoyable creative writing unit is designed to help students write effectively with a particular focus on narrative and descriptive writing.

  19. Realistic Fiction Writing: Narratives with Meaning

    The Process. I start with revisiting personal narrative writing. I have them brainstorm ideas for personal narratives and actually write those narratives. As always, I sample one for them. This also allows me to see their writing abilities since this is my first writing unit for the school year. After they write their narrative, I continue the ...

  20. Write a Narrative: Analyze a Model

    Supports guided in part by CA ELD Standards 7.I.B.6, 7.I.B.7, 7.I.B.8, and 7.I.C.10. Important Points in the Lesson Itself. To support ELLs, this lesson provides the opportunity to analyze a model narrative, Nasreen's Secret School, which they can use to understand the structure, conventions, and language they will need to use in their own narratives.

  21. PDF Narrative Writing Self-Assessment Checklist Grade 7

    I used narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, and description to develop experiences, events and characters. (W.7.3d) I included precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details and sensory language to capture action and convey experiences and events. Transitions (W.7.3c) shifts from one time frame or

  22. 7th Grade Narrative Writing Educational Resources

    My Most Memorable Day. Worksheet. Narrative Writing Rubric for 7th grade. Worksheet. 1. Browse 7th Grade Narrative Writing Educational Resources. Award winning educational materials designed to help kids succeed. Start for free now!

  23. Guided Writing Activities Teaching Resources for 7th Grade

    Guided Writing Activities Teaching Resources for 7th Grade Teaching Resource Collections; Guided Writing Activities; types. Teaching Resource 135. learning areas. English Language Arts ... Verbs 17. Phonics 16. Vocabulary 14. Narrative Writing ...